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Cats in fiction and in the classroom

July 20, 2020 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

How many famous cats can you list off the top of your head? As we started thinking about our favourite fictional and real feline friends, we realized that there are quite a lot of them. Not only are cats mythological creatures with important roles in fairy and folk tales, they are also popular characters in famous literary works. And they are all different with different personalities and habits. Just read our quick list below.

Cheshire Cat, Behemoth, Findus, the Cat in the Hat, Liszt, Puss in Boots, Tom, Garfield, ’Cat’, Crookshanks, Mrs. Norris and Buttercup.

How many of them have you met in various literary works? Do you have a favourite cat? What about your students?

Fat Cat is taking a nap in Fat Cat’s Busy Day written by Maria Cleary and illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini. © Helbling Languages

Cats and other fictional animals can be your students’ first literary pets. Young readers and teens can easily get hooked on a story if they find a lovable character like a cat in it. As your students get older, they might enjoy noticing and discussing the different roles of cats in books and think about them from a cultural perspective. Why not dedicate a whole lesson to cats and involve your students in discussions and activity building?

Five cat-themed activities

You can easily develop a cat-themed lesson if you follow the steps we share below.

1 The list

Write you own list and then invite your students to think in terms of classic and contemporary novels, poetry, children’s books, cartoons and comics.

2 Choosing a cat

When you have your list, ask your students to work in pairs or groups. Each student chooses a cat and prepares a short description of it. Ask them to describe what their cat looks like, what they are like, what they like doing. Then they can talk about their roles in the stories and tell an interesting story about them.

3 Cat words

What are cats like? Collect words to describe cat personalities. Are they similar to people?

What do they look like? There are many cat words that your students might find amusing. What is a tabby cat like? What is a tom? What’s catnap?

You can also collect cat phrases like

  • Has the cat got your tongue?
  • let the cat out of the bag
  • grin like the Cheshire cat

4 Cat activities

What noises do cats make? What do cats do? Collect verbs of action to describe cats. Can you also imitate these noises and movements? For example, can you purr? How do cats knead their owners’?

5 Cat names

Of course you can be like Holly Golightly in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and call your cat ’Cat’, but there are many more descriptive cat names. What types of cats do you associate with these names?

Ginger, Smokey, Gizmo, Fluffy, Misty and Muffin

What are the most popular names in your country?

Two cats in the Helbling Readers series

Let us introduce us to our favourite cats in the Helbling Readers series. Both of these cats are tabbies and have extremely important roles in the stories. However, their personalities differ.

1 Fat Cat in Fat Cat’s Busy Day

Our first friend Fat Cat from our young reader Fat Cat’s Busy Day written by Maria Cleary and illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini. Fat Cat seems lazy and slow, but he is a real, brave hero who is not afraid of dangerous people at all.

HELBLING Fat Cat cover


2 The Chesire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

And of course we love the Chesire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Our reader was illustrated by Roberto Tomei. The Cheshire Cat with the big grin on his face often behaves mysteriously, says silly comments and acts in unpredictable ways. His famous line is ’We’re all mad here.’

"But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: `we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
`How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
`You must be,’ said the Cat, `or you wouldn’t have come here."

Helbling Readers Red Series Classics Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

So do you have a favourite feline friend? Send us the title of the book in which he or she appears!

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